- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Anchor (September 9, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1400032601
- ISBN-13: 978-1400032600
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #337,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
After having been through the "wash-and-spin cycle" a few times, Margaret Atwood realized that her "own experience in the suds may be relevant to others." Thus was born Negotiating with the Dead, six essays about what it means to be a writer, particularly a female writer. Each essay explores one aspect of writerly contemplation: art vs. commerce; the ideal reader; the separation between the part of a person that writes and the part that lives; and, as the title suggests, the constant presence of those who came before (both writers and other ancestors). Atwood relates her own experiences as a female poet (to be taken seriously, it would have helped to commit suicide) and as a bestselling novelist (whether your books are good or bad, sell well or don't, people will look down at you for it). These are intriguing meditations, with references to works by Virgil, Isak Dinesen, Robertson Davies, and countless others (Atwood's own dead, no doubt). --Jane Steinberg
From Library Journal
This book grew out of the series of Empsom lectures that prize-winning novelist Atwood gave at the University of Cambridge in 2000. In it, she addresses a number of fundamental questions: not how to write but the basic position of the writer, why a writer writes, "and for whom? And what is this writing anyway?" Wearing her learning lightly, Atwood allows her wit to shine on almost every page. She probes her life and work along with those of many other writers and brings in myths, fairy tales, movies whatever feeds her themes. Following an initial autobiographical chapter, Atwood addresses major issues: the duplicity evidently inherent in writing; the problems of art vs. money; the problems of art vs. social relevance; the nature of the triangular relationship of writer, reader, and book; and, in the final title chapter, the provocative idea that "all writing of the narrative kind, and perhaps all writing, is motivated, deep down, by a fear of and a fascination with mortality by a desire to make the risky trip to the Underworld, and to bring something or someone back from the dead." Atwood is not looking to provide answers or solutions but to explore the parameters of some interesting questions. The result is engaging food for thought for all who care about writers and writing. Recommended for academic and large public libraries. Mary Paumier Jones, Westminster P.L., CO
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
As a longtime fan of Atwood's work and as a writer myself, I found her insight fascinating, though I can understand the disappointment some readers felt; this is not a handbook or a how-to, it's an intellectual memoir and will consequently be a let-down for many. But if you are curious about analysis and process more than in absolutes, there is much here to interest and entertain. Atwood-the-writer can seem remote in her fiction; here she is personable and humane. Anyone who has put pen to paper will recognize and value much that is to be found in this volume.
The back matter--notes, bibliography, acknowledgments, and index--are invaluable, and if you'd like you could launch a lifetime of study just using her references as the guidepost. This book has gotten me excited again about literature--a dive deep into the profound waters, far from the frothy, frivolous "acclaimed" writing that has increasingly made me feel so discouraged and alienated.
No, this is not a how-to. This is a wondering-how-and-why.
Margaret Atwood mingles wit with wisdom. Erudition with transparency.
It is unpretentious from start to finish, which I think is an Atwood hallmark.
As explained in the prologue, the six chapters are really six re-worked lectures, delivered in the year 2000 at Cambridge University. They are intended for "specialists in literature, general readers, and - especially - writers at an earlier stage or dewier stage than my own."
They are not sequentially built upon each other, but rather, they circle like gulls over a set of common themes having to do with the writer, the writer's medium, and the writer's art.
The three main questions covered are as follows: "Who are you writing for? Why do you do it? Where does it come from?"
Who, why, and where... and nowhere how.
This is not a book about how to write.
It is a book about what it is like to write.
What it MEANS, to be a writer.
The most interesting section, in my opinion, was the third, entitled "The Great God Pen" because it focused on the second question "Why does the writer write?"... my favorite of the three. Here, Atwood talked about the topic of "art for art" and it was fascinating. Does the writer write to make money? For hope of fame? To project a moral statement? Create something beautiful? Exonerate oneself? Impress the masses?
Her prodigious and eclectic wealth of reference points and allusions show that she did not begin her thoughts on this topic just last week. In this chapter (and the entire book) we are the recipients of a very-much-still-alive LIFETIME of experiential and theoretical research, of such a caliber it can be considered among the finest scholarship in the field.
And again, witty as all get out.
Here is an example of what I mean by that: "I can still hear the sneer in the tone of the Parisian intellectual who asked me, `Is it true you write the bestsellers?'
`Not on purpose,' I replied somewhat coyly." (p.68).
Much of the book reads as memoir yes! (as other reviewers have commented). But how can this be a negative thing? If it is the writer's life we are concerned with learning about, is it not wonderful that one of the best in the world will share with us relevant glimpses and pieces of her own?